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Trustees talk state funding, infrastructure and racial justice

Future of MSU Denver is theme at first board meeting of the new year.

By Matt Watson

February 1, 2021

MSU Denver signThe first Board of Trustees meeting of 2021 looked back on the highlights and struggles of the past year and looked forward to the immediate and long-term future of Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Funding advocacy

Board of Trustees Chair Barb Grogan and President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., used their opening remarks to reflect on Davidson’s presentation Thursday to the state’s Joint Budget Committee, where she made the case for a significant base adjustment to MSU Denver’s funding allocation. The University receives $48 million less in state funding than the average four-year Colorado institution of higher education.

“(MSU Denver’s funding) has always been a significant problem that needed to be addressed,” Grogan said. “However, after last spring when the Band-Aid on racial justice was ripped off in this country, I believe we have an absolute moral imperative to fix this and to not accept tiny incremental additions that keep us at the bottom and never allow us to really do what we should be doing for our students.”

Davidson will continue to provide the campus community with funding updates throughout the session, while the MSU Denver Champions program will host a JBC debrief event Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Kaycee Gerhart, director of government affairs, laid out the University’s 2021 legislative priorities, including charting a course to bring MSU Denver’s base funding up to the state average. The University is also backing legislation to support student access, affordability and opportunity, such as the possibility of a permanent test-optional admissions policy.

Lobbyist Christine Staberg provided an overview of other MSU Denver requests in front of the state, including a request to be relieved of $2.15 million in matching funds owed to the state from the construction of the Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Building. That request was approved unanimously by the Joint Budget Committee in January and will be included in capital-construction supplemental legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes. MSU Denver also has two Information Technology Services-related funding requests with the Joint Technology Committee and additional capital requests such as the Health Institute facility project.

The University could also receive federal stimulus funding approved in December “any time now,” Trustee Russell Noles added.

Planning for 2030

Trustees heard two presentations on long-term planning for the University, one on the 2030 Strategic Plan at the Finance Committee meeting Thursday and another on the 2030 University Infrastructure Strategy Development on Friday. Both were delivered by Cathy Lucas, vice president of Strategy and External Affairs. The Strategic Planning Team is working on a companion operational plan that will be presented to the trustees in June.

The infrastructure strategy will focus on campus needs, such as updating the classroom buildings and finding affordable housing options for students, and growth opportunities in Fox Park, Aurora and elsewhere. A steering committee and external advisory group will collect data and identify gaps in the next two months, the start of a multiphase plan culminating with a new infrastructure master plan to be filed with the state in December 2022.

Sean Petranovich, Ph.D., director of data and analytics, also showcased a new trustee data dashboard to help inform inquiries and decision-making.

Accreditation update

MSU Denver will undergo a comprehensive evaluation from its accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, beginning in February with an HLC student survey. Accreditors will make virtual and on-campus site visits in April as well. Shaun Schafer, Ph.D., associate vice president of Curriculum and Policy Development, is coordinating the University’s committee in preparation for HLC submissions and visits.

Advancement on track

Midway through the fiscal year, University Advancement had raised $3.06 million, 56% of the way to its fiscal goal as of Dec. 31. That includes a $300,000 gift for capital support of the Health Institute. Christine Márquez-Hudson, vice president of University Advancement, provided an update on campaign planning and the creation of an investment-advisor position. Márquez-Hudson noted that the MSU Denver Day of Giving is March 18.

Enrollment update

MSU Denver enrollment is down close to 9% for the spring semester, significantly better than the minus-19% figure shared at the December board meeting. The University has also gotten creative this spring by offering accelerated spring classes that start in March. MSU Denver has invested its marketing efforts into a campaign that targets potential new and current students to sign up for the accelerated classes.

Audio of last week’s meeting will be available online, while the next board meetings are March 18-19.

Topics: Board of Trustees

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